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May 9, 2008

Book Notes - Tao Lin ("Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

Tao Lin returns with his fourth Book Notes essay, this time for his second poetry collection, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. These poems are deceptively simple and draw the reader in with their depictions of ennui and loneliness, always with a sense of humor and gentle humanity that breathes them to life.

Jeffrey Brown wrote of the book:

"Tao Lin's poetry passes by slacker-era irony and self-indulgent formalism to dig up something deeper and more human, even when that something seems on first reading to merely be depressed hamsters."


In his own words, here is Tao Lin's Book Notes essay for his latest poetry collection, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:

I wrote Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy while on tour with my band “ “Spanish Rilo Kiley” in Taiwan and Japan. I played drums and my friend played keyboard and “sang.” Taiwan has a 24-hour mall and we lived there for four days. I slept inside a circular display of clothing. Just kidding, our band has not toured Taiwan or Japan. Taiwan has places where people pay money to sit indoors fishing from a small concrete “pond” and then grill the fish that they catch and eat it while still fishing. People do this “for something to do” like people in America might take walks inside shopping malls or go on deep sea fishing trips. Some of these places in Taiwan have giant shrimp instead of fish. Some of the places do not use bait or reel, you hold a pole and move it around until the hook goes into a fish’s scales then you “pull,” or “yank,” the fish out of the water. I have done this before, when I was ten or eleven. It was like a video game. I wouldn’t do it today.

I feel good when I look at an album or book and see that someone was selective about what to include. I think this means I “value excellence” or something. But I don't feel bad when I see that someone has “put a lot of shit” together into a book or album. I think it’s “funny.” “Either way is okay with me somehow.” I just put an entire sentence inside quote marks and it was not a quotation. When I start using quotation marks for single words or phrases I feel the urge to put everything in quotation marks. I think it’s because I become aware that the words and ideas already “exist” as possibilities and therefore I am, sort of, “quoting” no matter what I type—the sentences are not really “mine.” This might be “Zen” of me. It felt good to put an entire sentence in quotation marks. I felt calm and detached. I edited Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in a lot of places including in my bedroom in Florida. I remember editing it in Florida. I “laid out” every page on the floor in order, separated into four sections, and thought about it for three weeks or something, staring at it from different angles moving pages around and writing things on it. I listened to “emotional and sincere yet quiet, catchy, pleasant, and unobtrusive” music during this period of editing, I think it was mostly Rilo Kiley and Neva Dinova (songs off their split with Bright Eyes). I tried to be very selective in what I put into Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

At some point in my life I want to publish a book where I “just put all my shit into it” in a random order. People will probably like that because it will include my “screwing around” stories and poems and people like my “screwing around” things according to what I have read on the internet. Taiwan seems to me like “someone just put all their shit into it.” Japan seems to me like the “selective” version of Taiwan. I have been to both places and like them both.

I don’t know what to type about Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. I tried to type some things about it but then typed those other things. Here are some songs I like that can be listened to on the internet and why I like them.

“Dual Monotone Thoughts” – The Stupid Stupid Henchmen

I like the lyrics, I feel they are “original” and “exciting.”

“Members Only” – The Mad Conductor

I like the piano and lyrics.

“The Devil and my Family” – The Devil is Electric

I like the lyrics and the girl’s harmonies.

“Oh, Susquehanna” – Defiance, Ohio

I like the drums and the girl’s voice.

“I Grow Like a Plant” – Erin Tobey

I like her voice.

Those songs are not related to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. I had not listened to any of these songs when I “wrote” Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. The song I listened to most while working on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy might be “Studying Stones” by Ani Difranco. It was on the computer I was using. I didn’t listen to Ani Difranco before that or after that except a year later sometimes I searched that song on Youtube because I missed that period of my life a little and wanted to listen to the song to be reminded of how I felt during that time. I don’t think I have more things to say about Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or music right now. I think those songs I listed above would make a “nice, varied” mixed CD. I was “selective” with it. It had more songs at first but I deleted them. I was going to type an essay of all lies, saying things about “Spanish Rilo Kiley” touring Taiwan and Japan and how I wrote Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy on banana leaves in reaction to the coconut merchants “deep in the mountains of rural Taiwan,” or something, but I felt stupid and “bad” and changed things to not have any lies.


Tao Lin and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy links:

Tao Lin's Book Notes essay for his novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee
Tao Lin's Book Notes essay for his short story collection, Bed
Tao Lin's Book Notes essay for you are a little bit happier than I am

the author's blog
the author's myspace page
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

reviews of the book

Art Nouveau interview with the author
Bat Segundo Show interview with the author
Publisher's Weekly interview with the author
litpark interview with the author
other interviews with the author
Tao Lin's poetry online
Tao Lin's stories online


also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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